Often referred to as “the greatest Briton ever”, it’s no surprise that there have already been a number of films and documentaries centred around the life of Winston Churchill, with this latest film about the former Prime Minister coming from director Jonathan Teplitzky (‘The Railway Man’, ‘Broadchurch’).
This whole biopic centres around Churchill (Brian Cox) in the 96 hours before the D-Day landings in Normandy, 1944. Churchill is haunted by his past experience of war, obsessively worrying about what the public will think of him, whatever the outcome of this plan, and filled with fear by the sheer number of young men’s lives at stake if he makes the wrong call. Trying to support her husband the best she can, Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson) must make Winston see that his self-pity will not win the war, and it certainly isn’t how a leader should act.
First and foremost, my favourite thing about this film was easily the cinematography, courtesy of David Higgs (‘RocknRolla’, ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’). Some of the scenes were so beautifully shot that even the dull, and often tiresome dialogue managed to keep my attention. The film kicks off with shots of Winston on a beach, the seas red with blood, and as he walks away the colour fades to black and white and the empty beach is now filled with the bodies of young soldiers. This harrowing shot sets us up for Winston’s state of mind for the rest of the film and a visual representation of what he fears may happen.
Alongside the superb cinematography, Cox and Richardson’s performances are the only other saving graces of this film. The way in which they deliver their lines during some of the most intense and emotional scenes really capture your attention. The hour and forty-five minute run time feels seemed to drag in places and I think a ninety minute run time would have sufficed. A number of shots throughout the film are Winston staring into the distance, cigar in his mouth, with his facial expressions giving clear indication there is a lot running through his mind. The silence is often broken with Clementine entering the room and speaking a lot of sense and often reminding Winston to act like the leader he wants to be remembered for being.
The film focused on Churchill’s demons and his on-going fight against them, and because of this I think this film focused on the wrong Churchill. Had the film centred around the same 96 hours but from Clementine’s point of view and her struggle to support her husband, I think that would have made for a much more intense and ‘thriller’ like film. I left the cinema wishing I’d seen more of her and what she was doing whilst Winston was out butting heads with his American allies about the plans for D-Day.
I can’t say I’d recommend giving this a watch whilst it’s in the cinemas, but if you’re interested in films about World War II or Churchill then you’ll probably want to pick this up when it comes out on DVD. There’s certainly a lot of comments online about the films historical accuracy, but I’ve avoided going into detail on this in my review as biopics tend to be flexible with truth behind the stories they’re trying to tell. But with solid leads and some beautiful shots, ‘Churchill’ would be a film I recommend for one of those days where you’re just not quite sure what to watch.
Tom’s rating: 4.5 out of 10
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Ella Purnell